Cooking in Antarctica


I have talked much about the influence of the radio on my life. It marks out my day – more especially the weekend, where I generally have more time to listen. The Food Programme on a Sunday generally finds me upstairs in the kitchen preparing lunch. Last week Dan Saladino presented an edition about Shackleton’s cook. Green made food in what must be the most extreme of climates. He provided comfort where there was little. Cooking on ice. The endless waiting involved in melting water, defrosting supplies. Working with next to nothing.

The cold scares me. My body cannot deal with it. I literally freeze up, my brain and body ceasing to function. I am in awe of those great explorers, the hardships they endured. I think of them often. The endless trekking through white. And the comfort of food. Not as indulgence but as a warming, nourishing filling-ness. Yet appetite scares me. It feels like it could be out-of-control, that hunger. Yet, I have never known real hunger. How might my idiosyncratic diet fare then? And yet, I know, I know it is not about the food but about the controlling of appetite. So complex and yet so simple. As with so much of life. How about we just let it be? To yield, to succumb, to acquiesce is seen as weakness, a reneging of control. And yet, is there not power in that letting go? To not resist what is.

I am tired. We have journeyed and journeyed. But it has been good. Such warm people. I need to sleep. It overpowers me at times. I stand at the end of the Perygyl and I could fall into sleep, fall into the water and sleep. I have to jerk myself awake. That glorious numbing of cloud, the horizon lost to the sea.

I re-read some of my school reports from when I was 14. Can I get a picture of her? I remember the fearfulness, the shyness, and yet, also a performing – a performer. Never quite good enough. That’s what I bring to such memories. But is it true? Die to the past, he commands. Yes. That might be good. I shall try. I shall try. What is left then? A white space. A white space of possibility. Like ice. Like ice.




A single sunflower has sprung up on the building site outside our flat. Tall, yet spindly, it is a testament to Nature’s indiscriminate pulsing towards life, whatever. I like to look at it.

Walking two days ago in the early morning I saw two hats and a toothbrush in the gutter. Not together, I came upon them separately. The toothbrush and the black straw sun hat were on  North Road, the purple satin witch’s hat was further down the hill.

This morning there was the moon, shining through a cloudless sky. I didn’t need my torch. The sea made silver.

A birthday tantrum, or so it felt. What was that about? I didn’t want a fuss. No cards, no presents, thank you. And yet, I wanted to be made to feel special, to be singled-out, as I had been as a child. It is no longer relevant, no longer important. There was a scratchy-ness in my not quite reconciled self. Let it go. Let it all go. The past is no longer relevant. A year has passed. Either way a construct. So be it. Live what you ask. Be what you are destined to be. Let it go. Let it all fall away. Fall away.


The Red Hat


We often see her, but not at that time. 3.30 am and she is walking down Terrace Road, her red hat perched on top of her head, handbag held against her chest. She wears her keys on a string around her neck. I am making my way home after my morning walk. I smile at her. Good morning, I breathe, quietly. She doesn’t respond, her mouth set grim. Will she be alright? Her winter coat is thick against the unseasonable warmth, her socks gather around her ankles. Old woman, young girl. There is no difference.

The sound of a gun shot. I heard it through the darkness of the Castle Park. Three teenagers huddled over lit cigarettes. I wouldn’t go down there, they say, that sounded like a gun shot. It’ll be alright, I say. It’s Aberystwyth  not New York I want to say, but don’t. There is smoke and a few lads scattering. Then nothing. All is as usual. Safe.

4.15 am. There’s fucking clouds in the sky. A man’s voice shouting. We won’t be able to see the stars. He is remonstrating with his friends who want to sit in the Castle. Why are we going to the Castle? he wails. I want tea, says another. They are just dark shapes. I see no faces. Usually voices are hushed, conspiratorial in the dark. I walk through the fug of it. Detached.

Voices, snatched conversations. Snippets. A snap shot of another life.

You know what? A tall blonde girl links arms with a diminutive man as they walk the Promenade. It is not yet 4.00 am. You know what I like? she continues. I like that we are mates now, innit? The man is silent. He takes a bite out a huge French stick. (I thought he was sniffing flowers.)

A couple sit in silence outside The Glengower Hotel, they are both in pyjamas.

The baker is standing outside the Pelican Bakery, one foot propped-up against the wall. He smokes while reading his mobile phone. Morning, I say. Morning.

The smell of bread had wafted right up to the Castle.

Selma and When the Wind Blows. I love watching our films. They move me. They enter my dreams. Full of compassion, humanity. A winding-down, entering others’ narratives. It is good to be such a sponge. A sponge to the struggle of others, stepping-out, albeit briefly from one’s own blessedness. To walk in another’s shoes. That image of them walking across the bridge. Such courage, potent in their vulnerability. Dignity. The dignity of quiet, peaceful certainty. Amen.



dried flower from man to man book

He handed me the bag, a broad smile on his face. Damsons. You got me damsons. A hankering. A hankering for that rich, purple bitterness. Satisfied.

I’m busy. There is much to do. Not much time to write this. I miss it. It is playful. A gentle inward-looking playfulness, as well as an archive of things, of things I’ve seen, heard and thought of. I will read it back but for the moment I just need to get it down, captured, preserved.

Voices on the promenade as I sit there, eyes closed against the sun. A sound piece. The warm fug of others’ voices, not understanding, just basking in the murmuring.

I bought stocks and sunflowers. The stocks lasted four days, it was enough. The warm, sticky, headiness of their perfume filling our home. I drink it in.

An upright piano on the beach.

The boy baker standing outside the shop in the dark, texting.

Down by the harbour, a car drives off as I approach.

Two boys, one shirtless, throwing down their spliffs and tumbling into the B&B, noisy at 3 am. The acrid smell stinging my nostrils.

A girl pushing a pushchair on Great Darkgate St.. The pram is veering all over the pavement, her other hand holds a mobile. She is shouting. What I need is a really good fuck, she shouts. I’ll be home soon. Love you. She puts the phone in her pocket, turning her attention to the pushchair. It is empty save for a large shopping back. Come on, Baba, she says, steering it forward towards Penglais Hill.

Last week. A memory. Walking towards the Castle. 3.50 am. A line of people, of bodies, semi-visible in the lamp lit gloom. A curve of bodies, walking as one. A family. Different heights. A family. Young children in high vis jackets, white ankle socks and trainers. An Orthodox Jewish family. Five children and two parents. Walking. Walking the Prom at 3.50 am in the morning. I incline my head. A brief nod to the father. He repeats the gesture.

It is a magical time. Today, the wind, blowing through my tiredness. I fall into it, against it, submitting to its will. So tired. A long journey North, to sit with a friend. Good, it was good. Worth the non-sleeping night, driving, driving.